It surprised me when some of my teen peers in the Order of the Arrow suggested that I run for lodge chief. I had served as chapter chief for two years, but it had never occurred to me that I might have the right stuff to be lodge chief. Most lodges cover a BSA council, while it is common for a chapter to cover a BSA district. Could I really step up from the district to lead the OA for the entire council?
A main phrase in the OA mission statement says that the Order fulfills its purpose “through positive youth leadership” (Order of the Arrow Handbook. 2015 ed. Boy Scouts of America, 99). This is true at every level, from the chapter on up to national. Youth officers and committee chairmen “lead meetings, run activities and manage OA finances” (OA Handbook, 100).
My term as lodge chief was a wonderful adventure that helped establish my understanding of how Scouting leadership should work. Fortunately I had lots of help from my lodge vice chief, secretary, treasurer, and committee chairmen, as well as chapter officers that were responsible for most of the program. Many of these young men went on to become great Scouters as adults.
Thinking of adult Scouters reminds me of the phrase that follows the words “youth leadership” in the OA mission statement: “under the guidance of selected capable adults” (OA Handbook, 99). All these years later I still admire and appreciate the two adults that served with me as members of our lodge Key 3, lodge lay adviser Ken Reed and lodge staff adviser Delose Conner.
These two dedicated men were responsible for much of the success our lodge experienced during my term. They did an incredible amount of work to ensure that the youth could lead the program. They even supported us by letting us fail when our judgment ran counter to their counsel. I learned much from Ken and Delose and I still count them as cherished friends.
As I write this, I can see that my chapter calendar for the next year has many dates that are marked “to be announced.” These will be planned and executed by new chapter officers that will be elected in a few days. I have no idea which boys will be elected. I only know that my job as chapter adviser is to enable them to lead well.
Why would any of this be important to Latter-day Saint young men leaders? Don’t we already use this same approach in Church-sponsored troops and teams? Consider Bill Chapman’s Blog #1. In my years of LDS Scouting experience, I’d have to say that implementation of this kind of youth leadership is somewhat rare.
It is also noteworthy that Church leaders have repeatedly called on Latter-day Saints to get outside of our meetinghouses and serve our communities and other worthwhile causes. Not only does the OA offer a great opportunity for our Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts to serve others and further develop leadership skills, the Order presents a way for Latter-day Saint Scouts to do these things outside of the standard Church structure.
My mission began a few months after my term as lodge chief ended. Like OA members, our missionaries regularly perform acts of unselfish service, work extensively with good people that are not members of the Church, and serve in leadership callings. So I found that my development in the OA had given me an extra leg up in preparing “to serve an honorable full-time mission” (purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood). The boys you serve can have this opportunity too.
Questions to Ponder
- Did you know that the OA offers young men great opportunities to regularly do things they will be doing on their missions?
- Would you like to help your Scouts better prepare to serve honorable full-time missions?
- What will you do to better enable the youth in your unit to do so?
-Scott Hinrichs has been actively Scouting since age eight. He has served in many youth and adult Scouting positions and has been a member of the Order of the Arrow for more than four decades. He and his wife are raising their family in North Ogden, Utah. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.